Community economic development

We are championing community economic development in national and local policy. This is an approach to local economic strategy that combines community development and grassroots economic empowerment.

What is community economic development?

Community economic development is a process through which people living, working and running businesses in an area work together as a community to effect change in their local economy, so that it better supports their shared aspirations in terms of opportunities, livelihoods, wellbeing and ecology. It often involves broadening ownership and control of assets and enterprise in a place, which is where co-ops have a particularly practical function. 

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Examples of initiatives to come out of recent community economic development include:

  • hundreds of successful community share offers, in which people have come together to raise millions of pounds in patient mission-aligned equity finance for community businesses
  • Eastbourne Fisherman's CIC is a co-operative venture established by people working in the local fishing industry to develop new infrastructure and put itself on a more sustainable footing
  • Regather Co-operative in Sheffield is formed of many local food businesses and community organisations, as a way to co-develop their nascent local food economy and maximize economic and social value
  • Collyhurst Big Local's participation in community economic development has helped the existing network of residents and voluntary organisations to develop its own regeneration plans for their ward that focuses on local entrepreneurship and enterprise, in response to deep-seated and persistent social deprivation and some unpopular and alienating 'top-down' regeneration initiatives driven by / imposed by the local authority
  • Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust in used to increase community ownership of commercial property in the town centre, so that through a democratic community benefit society local people can influence the evolution of their town centre economy 

Policy support for community economic development

Co-operatives UK is currently involved in developing the policy and practice for community economic development. We are the lead partner in a number of experimental programmes that are generating learning to inform public policy and grassroots practice, includig the flagship Empowering Places.

Along with others, including the recently reported Localism Commission, we are calling on national government to help ensure there are properly resourced and supported community economic development programmes nationwide.

Policies for community economic development

  • The UK Shared Prosperity Fund should provide money and support for community economic development
  • The next tranche of Dormant Assets should also provide money and support for community economic development
  • Scottish Government should provide funding and on the ground support for community economic development as part of its Community Wealth Building agenda 
  • MHCLG should provide local authorities and community organisations with a toolkit to help them support community economic development in their areas
  • Community economic development plans should be given material weighting and legitimacy in local political economies, with economic development resources allocated to help communities implement them
  • Communities could be given a legal Right to Participate in community economic development 

  • Existing new enterprise support needs to be augmented with programmes that help people explore and develop their 'co-op options'

Action research

In 2017 we published the findings of two years action research into the practicalities of community economic development. The report will be of practical interest to communities thinking about their local economies and policymakers tasked with fostering a more inclusive economy, locally and nationally.

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